Watchdog looks at protecting MPs by cutting details from expenses

The UK’s parliamentary spending watchdog has begun redacting parts of MPs’ expenses to protect their safety since the killing of Sir David Amess.

After the veteran MP was stabbed to death at a constituency surgery on Friday, some colleagues raised concerns with the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa) over the amount of information released about their claims for travel and venues hired for surgeries under transparency requirements.

Some details have been taken down from Ipsa’s website “in light of the terrible events last Friday”, according to a memo seen by the Guardian. It added the organisation was “seeking fresh expert advice on what and how we publish your business and staffing costs”.

This could include withholding some information requested under the Freedom of Information Act. The publication of MPs’ spending due in November has also been postponed, according to the message sent on Tuesday by Ipsa’s chair, Richard Lloyd, and chief executive, Ian Todd.

They said Ipsa would help MPs to “make it as safe as possible for you to continue to engage with and represent your constituents, which plays such a vital role in our democracy”.

A Tory MP said: “The data they hold at the moment exposes us to a lot of risk in terms of where we are staying and when we are travelling … They need to completely reform the way they present this information.”

A Labour MP, who asked to remain anonymous because of threats against her, said Ipsa’s “publishing of highly detailed and itemised expenses always increases abuse towards us when the information is released”, and put colleagues on the defensive “up against hostility about even our stationery budgets”.

MPs also complained of delays in getting security equipment signed off for reimbursement, with a minister saying the review launched this week was “too late”.

Ipsa came under fire last week after it accidentally published the names, home addresses and phone numbers of two parliamentary staffers working for the Labour MP Dawn Butler. The information should have been redacted but was released in response to an FoI request by the news website Insider.

Rupa Huq, a Labour backbencher, said that since the death of Amess, a close friend, she had been considering removing her address from the ballot paper that election candidates can choose to display to show voters they live locally. She said: “We all live amongst our constituents and our address is on the ballot paper and I just don’t know if I’ll do that next time. [For] three elections I have had it published in full. You can have it redacted, and I’m thinking I might just do that next time.”

One Conservative MP said that after their address appeared on the ballot paper in 2019, political opponents sent drones over her house, took photos and plastered them on posters around their constituency.

A review into the security offered all MPs is under way by the Home Office. Parliament’s private security supplier contract is with Chub, but will be taken over by ADT at the end of the month.

On Monday, when MPs returned to Westminster to pay tribute to Amess, the Speaker, Lindsay Hoyle, wrote to them saying it had been a “shocking and deeply disturbing” time and his focus would be “on ensuring that you and your staff have the security advice and welfare support you need”.

Ipsa said there may have been cases of delays in installing security equipment for MPs, and that this was sometimes caused by needing planning permission. It added: “Ipsa is committed to providing security funding for MPs and their staff and will fund all measures recommended by the police.”

Comments are closed.